A Family Affair
O.A.R.S. has been family owned and operated since 1969—It’s the kind of place where there is a good chance you may get the company founder and still-the-president, George Wendt, when you call to ask a question late in the evening on a summer night before your trip.
We operate 100% of our trips in the U.S. using guides trained and employed by O.A.R.S. at regional outposts throughout the West. The permits, boats, equipment and vehicles are all O.A.R.S.-owned, and with the exception of some flights and shuttles, nothing is subcontracted out.
On international trips, we partner with expert local guides and outfitters that have been thoroughly vetted by our guides and operations staff. O.A.R.S. believes it is a fundamental part of eco-tourism to work with local guides, while at the same time bringing our wealth of experience to the table.
The Guides Make All the Difference
In the 45+ years O.A.R.S. has been in business, sure, we’ve learned a few things about operating fun and hassle-free trips for our guests. But the real magic happens because of the extraordinary guides you’ll find working on your trip. We are proud to have earned the reputation for having the most-experienced, professional and customer-focused crews on the water. No other company’s guides do as much as ours to ensure you’re having the trip of a lifetime.
Investing in Our Staff
Our guides earn competitive wages and O.A.R.S. sponsors the cost of training for swiftwater rescue, Wilderness First Responder courses, Leave No Trace and on-river seminars in regional geology, history and flora & fauna. In many areas, we offer no-cost employee housing for guides and we have a travel fund to encourage guides to experience trips in other areas. Further, because we genuinely care about our employees, returning guides are offered healthcare cost reimbursement and a 401(k) retirement package with a company match. And to the extent we like our guides looking sharp, we work with our partner apparel companies to supply our staff with a complimentary footwear and apparel package every spring.
Guest Ratio & Group Size
O.A.R.S. trips offer an average guide-to-guest ratio of one-to-four with generally no more than 24 people per trip (average group size is 12 – 16 guests). On our Grand Canyon trips that ratio is closer to one guide for every three travelers and on trips where we offer paddle rafts, we stick to one guide for every six or seven paddlers.
Year-round Office & Private Trips Staff
Our year-round office staff and adventure consultants have more than 150 years of combined experience in the industry. We’ve been there: over 1,000 river trips amongst us (hey, it’s one of the perks)! We’re available to answer your questions all year and anxious to match you up with the trip that best suits your personal interests. Want your own private trip? Call our Private & Charter Trips manager to start planning your personalized adventure today.
You’ve Got Options
We have trips exclusively for adults, solo travelers and families (more than 10,000 families have trusted us with their vacation in the last 10 years). We have gourmet trips with white linens and exploratory trips that will push the boundaries of your comfort zone. With a broad range of itineraries and dates to choose from, we have something for just about everyone.
Having a diverse range of trips also means some extra financial security for you, so if there’s a drought or a wildfire, it’s not going to sink our ship. It also gives us the ability to match you to the trip that’s right for you—whether you’re looking for a family trip or one with no kids. And, if you only have one week off between ballet classes and soccer season, we’ll find a trip for you with other kids the same age as yours.
O.A.R.S. prepares fresh, high-quality, healthy food, (often with some organic ingredients) providing you a diverse menu and well-balanced meals that demonstrate our attention to detail. Whenever possible, foods and goods are purchased locally, supporting local businesses and farmers. You can expect to eat as well or better than you do at home—without having to deal with the mess or cleanup.
O.A.R.S. uses top-of-the-line equipment that’s well-maintained. That means the best rafts, dories, kayaks and stand up paddleboards on the water; top-notch oars, paddles & helmets; lofty sleeping bags, comfy (three-inch thick) mattress pads & roomy tents and waterproof bags to keep your stuff dry. Plus, we bring camp chairs for everyone (seriously, you might be surprised what other outfitters do or don’t supply).
Whitewater rafting is an adventure sport plain and simple; it is not a Disneyland ride and there are some inherent risks. But it’s also exceptionally fun. O.A.R.S. has been in the river running business for 46 years and that is no accident. What better way to moderate the risks than choosing to travel with one of the most-experienced outfits on the water today? We pride ourselves on a level of professionalism from our staff that demonstrates our commitment to training and preparation. We also produced an industry-leading whitewater rafting safety orientation video, which we ask all passengers to watch.
Environmental stewardship is nothing new to O.A.R.S. We’ve been at it for four decades. We utilize alternative energy sources such as solar power along with fuel-efficient vehicles and support vessels whenever possible to reduce our carbon footprint. We supply reusable insulated mugs on all our multi-day river trips and encourage our guests to refuse single-use products. We support local communities and, in partnership with our guests, we have contributed more than $3.5 million in donations and fees toward the preservation of the environment and to conservation initiatives.
Just Ask Around
More than 70% of O.A.R.S. travelers each year are repeat guests or were referred by a past O.A.R.S. traveler. You’d be hard-pressed to find many people who’d say they didn’t get good value for the money they spent with us.
We are a member in good standing with the Adventure Travel Trade Association, America Outdoors, Outdoor Industry Association, The International Ecotourism Society (among others) and a founding member of the Adventure Collection, a partnership of nine of the world’s most respected and award-winning adventure travel companies.
For consecutive years, O.A.R.S. has been named the “Best River & Sea Outfitter on Earth” by National Geographic Adventure and one of the top two outfitters in the world by Outside in its annual Active Travel Awards recognition program. In multiple years, O.A.R.S. trips have been honored as “50 Tours of a Lifetime” by National Geographic Traveler and since 2007, Condé Nast Traveler has recognized Mindy Gleason, O.A.R.S. Reservation Manager and International Adventure Travel Consultant, as Condé Nast Traveler’s standalone Top Travel Specialist in the River Rafting category. In 2015, Sunset recognized O.A.R.S.’ Salmon River trip as the “Best Guided Outdoor Trip” of the year and Outside presented O.A.R.S. with two Best of Travel awards: one for “Best River Guide” and one for “Best River Trip.”